Flexible Solar Cells and Biosensors

At the University of Dayton, we have developed some new capabilities for synthesizing materials and fabricating devices out of these materials to be used as a molecular sensors and also in different capacities for energy harvesting. What’s really cool about it is that you deposit this layer down, and then you can use a laser to write places where you basically change the electronic structure in places. And you can make little two dimensional circuits on a flexible substrate. These materials have some unique combinations of properties. They have a direct band gap, which is really useful for generation of power from solar energy. They have optical transparency in certain parts of the spectrum, and they have mechanical flexibility. So all these things combined make them great candidates for flexible solar power harvesting materials. So what we’re envisioning as being able to make things like wearable, flexible solar cells, having solar cells on your clothing. You know, you can imagine charging your cell phone from your shirt, right? Things like this. So you know, if we can make something that’s flexible, right, but also still cheap, then we can put solar cells on all kinds of things and to be harvesting energy as we’re walking around. We’re going for kind of high efficiency using a new idea. So we can stack these materials up on top of each other and they are transparent throughout some range of incident energies. And so each layer absorbs a different part of the spectrum, and this enables us to make these more efficient solar cells. The other thing we’re doing here is trying to make essentially biosensors. So we can detect the onset of something like cardiac arrest or epileptic seizure. We can monitor people’s glucose levels with high precision and their stress levels, fatigue levels, lots of different aspects of human performance and human health. Essentially what we want to do is to use terahertz radiation. And terahertz is electromagnetic radiation like light, but it’s longer wavelength. It’s further out than the IR. And it’s nice because terahertz is sort of something that you can use to probe matter. It transmits through matter, but it can be lightly absorbed by things. So we put down this metamaterial and then we can do terahertz spectroscopy on it, and we see a peak in the spectrum. Now if you put something else on top of that, you’ll see a shift in that peak. And so this allows us to sense things. So this new method gives us the advantage of the flexible materials, but also allows us to produce electronics and optoelectronics very cheaply and quickly without a lot of expensive equipment. So what we’d like to show is that, hey, we can do the same thing, we can make these resonators, they work just as well, but we can make them a lot cheaper.

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